One of the greatest parts of my work here at CRHC is celebrating our rural communities. This year, CRHC hosted the 10th Annual Safety Net Clinic Week Community Showcase as a tribute to rural health clinics across the state!
Safety Net Clinic Week is dedicated to promoting awareness of the unique challenges facing certified Rural Health Clinics, rural clinics and Community Safety Net Clinics. Colorado currently has 49 federally certified rural health clinics across the state, 37 are owned and operated by a rural hospital and 12 are independent. To qualify to be a federally certified rural health clinic, the clinic needs to be located in a non-urban healthcare professional shortage area or medically underserved area. Rural Health Clinics primarily serve Coloradans who are uninsured, underinsured or publically insured and provide over a million visits a year to approximately 344,000 rural and underserved Coloradoans.
Rural Health Clinics are paid a per-visit encounter rate of $110.36 per Medicaid patient and $83.45 per Medicare patient. Often, this funding does not meet the cost of operations, leaving the Rural Health Clinic at financial risk. The insufficient encounter rate funding means many clinics are also dependent on other funding, including grants, donations, and staffing models that include volunteers, which is not sustainable. Rural Health Clinics do not receive any additional federal dollars. These unstable funding streams leave safety net clinics that serve our state’s most vulnerable individuals at financial risk. Both federal and state fund appropriations and a relaxation of regulations that are over burdensome are needed to support rural health clinics and are key policy efforts of CRHC.
For Safety Net Clinic Week this year, CRHC visited three clinics: Rangely Family Medicine Clinic in Rangely, Delta County Hospital Family Medicine Clinic in Delta, and Rocky Ford Family Health Center in Rocky Ford. CRHC took a different approach to the videos this year, highlighting three issues significant to rural health clinics and exploring how the three communities address the issues. The videos covered the Rural Healthcare Workforce, Mental & Behavioral Healthcare Access in Rural CO, and Funding the Rural Safety Net. We hope that you will take a few minutes to view the videos, reflect on the issues and consider collaborating with CRHC to address them through advocacy, education, and policy solutions.